Inaugural Freedom 100 IRL Infiniti Pro Series
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Roger Bailey, Ed Carpenter, Paul Dana, Mark Taylor
Part 3 of 3
Q: This is for the drivers and Roger. The speeds obviously at the Speedway are going to be quite a bit higher on average than they have been up to this point. Arie's accident this past weekend, I think he sustained close to a hundred G's when he hit the wall and walked away. So the cars are logically safe, but is there any concern with the increased speeds attained here?
Bailey: Not from the physical standpoint of the car. We obviously consulted Dallara before we embarked on to this and they're very happy with anything that's going to happen here. We're already officially controlled by the horsepower and the aerodynamic configuration. We're not just going to run indefinitely. I think we'll probably run somewhere around, they calculated, the 188-190 mark and that speed they're very, very happy. We actually run speeds up there at Michigan and Fontana, somewhat different configuration than Indianapolis, but as regards the stability and the safety of the car, I've got no concerns now.
Q: Mark, and any of the other drivers, as Roger said, the IndyCar Series guys are going to get 44 hours of practice before their race. You guys are going to be lucky to get four. Is that enough? Are you comfortable and ready to race here?
Taylor: We'll be happy with any time we can get. Of course, it's a very busy month, so we'll take a back seat as far as the IndyCar Series is concerned. But hopefully everyone will take it, take every hour they can and just work up steadily towards being able to race on the Saturday. So that's the main aim for everybody. You have to work with what you've got. At Phoenix we didn't have a huge amount of time before the race and I feel that everyone was comfortable with the amount of time we got there. So I don't see this -- it's probably a more challenging track, but it's going to be the same feeling. At least we get a test day before we go out into qualifying. How we work that day is up to us.
Bailey: Steve, we do have a day for all competitors on April the 17th, an open test day. So they'll get a good six hours of running prior to the opening of the event on May 13th.
Q: Mark, you said something that somewhat surprised me. And Paul you can answer this as well. Sorry to leave you out on this, Ed. But you said you actually pursued the oval style of racing. 99 percent of road racers say that is the only form of motorsports. You don't normally hear road racers say they want to race ovals or desire to race ovals. What lured you to racing ovals and what have you found to be the most fun part about it and why you came over here?
Taylor: The first oval race I watched live was Michigan. The second one was Chicago, and Chicago especially was an absolutely awesome race. To watch cars go three abreast into a corner, I mean even at Phoenix I was watching that happen at those kinds of speeds. I think that's racing. On the road courses, it's very challenging, I had a lot of enjoyable races there as well, but it was difficult to have a good race every -- you'd have 15 races in a season and maybe two or three of them would be a race that you really enjoyed. Okay, it's a very challenging track and you have to work hard to get down to a good time. That's where the challenge is. But here it's more about racing drivers rather than drivers going around a track as fast as possible. Here the challenge is being able to trust the driver next to you that he's not going to make an error, and he knows how his car feels and you know how your car feels. To me that's a bigger challenge.
Dana: Prior to the season I had only done one oval, because when I was in F2000 there was just one on the schedule. So in a lot of ways I'm kind of facing the same stuff Mark has, making the transition. I agree with everything he said -- the speed is incredible, the racing is incredible.
You know, just to get back to the business side of the sport a little bit, as an American driver with American sponsors, I'm with the Ethanol Group and it's new sponsors in the sport and it's a small program. It's very fragile because it's in its first year. As Roger was saying earlier, it's a real soft economy right now. The fact that this is the Indy Racing League and it's an Indy Racing League Series was instrumental in my sitting here. I sat out last year looking for funding. The Indy Racing League has a tremendous amount of momentum behind it. The on-track product with the IndyCar Series with all the three-abreast finishes at Texas and whatnot, the on-track product is incredible. We've had a lot of races with the IndyCar Series where the fans are on their feet for the last 20 laps. That's racing. Regardless of whether you're a road racer or whatever, that's what it's all about. I think the league shares a lot of the same goals for the Infiniti Pro Series.
You know, our races have strung out a little bit, I think that has to do with the aerodynamic package, but certainly we're going to put on some really strong shows. Then this announcement that we're running with the month of May on the Speedway has added a tremendous amount of credibility to my program that I can take back to my sponsors. So really this is the only place to be right now. This is THE show. And the racing is great, the marketing support that the league gives us is great and there is no other option. This is it. So I'm thrilled to be here.
Q: First to you, Mark, and then the other two. You have a long break here before your next race at Indy. For you, how do you keep up your momentum? And for Ed and Paul, how do you catch up?
Taylor: Well, I'm going to be able to go and see my folks back home for about ten days and then we'll be back out here for the test on the 17th. I think everyone is looking forward to that. It's not a huge amount of time out of the car. You try and get as much testing in as possible. There isn't a lot of time this time of year, but I'll keep my confidence from the last two races. I have to be feeling the best out of anybody in the series at the moment. And I know that when we come here we're going to have a very good car and we'll have the time on the track to be able to feel the confidence around here and learn the track. Every oval we go to, it's going to be a big learning curve and you have to take your time. You just have to take the time that you've got to be able to make sure that you get into the race and you can feel comfortable that you're going to be able to string a lot of laps together at very close times.
King: Ed, how do you catch this guy?
Carpenter: That's a good question. We've really been struggling the beginning of the season with Foyt Racing. It's not only the Infiniti Pro Series part of the team, I mean their Winston Cup team is struggling and they're struggling with Anthony (Foyt IV) and Shiggy (Hattori) in IRL. When you come to Indy with A.J., it's one place he knows how to win and how to excel. It doesn't seem to matter who he's got in his car or what package he's got, but somehow every year when he comes here in May, he gets his drivers up to the front. I expect the same thing with us in the Pro Series.
We've had a stint of bad luck and it all goes in cycles. I mean, I haven't lost any of my confidence. I'm ready to get back up front where we were all last season. I'm trying to find some stuff to get in a car before Indy. I might try to go out to California and run some sprint car stuff. I haven't given up on that part of the sport completely. But it's not hard to catch up. I've been there before and I'm just wanting to get up and share the podium with this guy.
King: Paul, you've been racing for a long time. When a guy like Mark gets on a roll or any driver gets own a roll, is there anything in the back of your head that says he's got to cool off eventually?
Dana: No, he won't. We don't expect him to. Just to put it in perspective, Mark's program came together late last year, our program came together in mid-January. So we are a very new team. They had a little bit of a leg up on the learning curve just in terms of everybody working together. Despite that, I'm not all that intimidated by it. We've been as quick or quicker in a lot of the practice sessions. I look at it like Mark has pulled the trigger and gotten it done quicker in qualifying really well and I haven't. In terms of the pace of our package versus the pace of the Panther package, it's all real similar. I think we're there. To be honest, my learning curve in qualifying, I just need to get it done and we'll be right there. I don't worry about what he's doing. There are a lot of really well-funded, really well-run professional teams in the series. If you worry about what they're doing, you're going to drive yourself nuts. So I look at my engineer and my performance and focus on that. We'll get there and we'll get there soon.
King: We're going to need to break now. Paul, Roger, Ed, Mark, thank you very much. We'll see you back at 10 a.m.